I call this category, Legacy recipes, because I think there are delicious foods that you love to eat….again and again. Those recipes that are handed down from generation to generation and shared with close friends. They are often written on old index cards and stowed carefully into the recipe box. In my house, those cards are usually torn, smudged and barely legible, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve made the recipes so often, I know them by heart. Yes, these foods are cherished because they are delectable, but many times the love for the recipe comes from the memory it stirs within us. I recently asked a dear friend if she had any recipes that she would call legacies, foods she loves not only because of their flavor, but because of the memories they bring back to her. She immediately said, ‘Yes!’ Here is her story and legacy recipe. Please welcome Ingrid Lochamire.
Vallie’s Trifle, a Cherished Memory by Ingrid Lochamire
So many memories are associated with good food. One of my most treasured memories and a favorite recipe are both rooted in a visit to an island across the Atlantic.
Thirty years ago, I spent Christmas in England with my long-time pen pal and friend, Valerie Cross Surrey. I was pregnant with my first child and, though this was my second trip to England to see Valli, I was especially excited to spend this holiday in her home. Our first trip to England had been all about sight-seeing – London , Southampton, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Birmingham. This trip was all about family – hers and my new one.
I was 12 years old when I “met” Vallie through a school friend who had a British pen pal. Over the next decade, Vallie and I wrote faithfully about school, pets, movies, books, and later about boyfriends, careers and future plans. The blue tissue airmail forms of our day flew back and forth across the ocean. We were truly best friends, though we had never met. So, when Vallie and her boyfriend, Chris, began planning their wedding, it seemed natural that it would take place in the U.S. I made arrangements for a wedding on the beach at New Smyrna in Florida. We picked Vallie and Chris up at the airport in New York City and drove down the coast to the beach and our hotel. Vallie and I shopped for the perfect sundress for the ceremony, we bought a bunch of flowers and, barefoot, she and Chris were married on the beach on a beautiful June morning.
Vallie and Chris visited us several times over the years, including the year after our son was born. The pair loved adventure and they adored one another. Often, they would fly to the states for ski vacations in Colorado or for getaways in Florida, or they would take long vacations on the Mediterranean. Chris owned a business that sold “garden” houses (porches and screen houses) and Vallie worked for an attorney in Southampton. Vallie and Chris agreed there wasn’t room in their busy lives for children, though they loved their own nieces and nephews and our sons.
Our correspondence became less frequent, but we still maintained contact and talked occasionally on the telephone. My husband and I visited Vallie and Chris in 1980 and returned again three years later to celebrate Christmas with them.
In December 1983, between my bouts with morning sickness and exhaustion, we participated in all the traditions surrounding a typical British Christmas. On Christmas morning, after a breakfast of fruit and coffee, Vallie and I went to work preparing dinner. The table was laid with her best dishes, flowers and “crackers” – a party favor in a paper cylinder that, when pulled from each end, pops open to reveal a paper crown, a British saying or joke and a small gift.
Our meal included a beautiful turkey with Yorkshire pudding and prawns (shrimp), roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts and mince pie. But the highlight of that meal for me was a dessert I had discovered on our first trip to England in Vallie’s hometown, Northampton – Trifle. In honor of our first visit, Vallie’s mother had created this beautiful dish with rich cream, sponge cake, jellie, brandy and fruit. I loved it, so Vallie wrote down the recipe along with tips as to which are the most traditional ingredients (there are many versions of this dish) and gave it to me on Christmas day.
Our British Christmas was memorable in many ways – the food, music, pub visits and walks through the Black Forest come to mind nearly every time I make Vallie’s Trifle. It was wonderful to bask in the love Vallie and Chris showered on one another and on us, and to laugh and joke about the differences in our cultures.
Some 15 years later, we would lose Vallie to cancer. After her death, her husband, Chris, sent me a long letter telling me how much Vallie loved us and what a precious gift our friendship had been to her. In the letter were pages of photographs of Vallie. In them, Vallie is joyful, playful and beautiful as always.
I’ll think of Vallie and our British Christmas as I prepare Trifle for my family on Christmas Eve. Some favorite recipes are treasured because they taste wonderful. This one is a double treasure because of the memories it holds. Enjoy.
Vallie’s English Trifle
Sponge or pound cake (I use a large loaf of Pepperidge Farm’s frozen pound cake, thawed)
Strawberry or raspberry jam
¼ cup brandy (optional)
Canned or fresh peaches, sliced
Other fresh fruit as desired
Custard (I use one box of Jello Americana Custard. Homemade is wonderful, too!)
Fresh whipping cream, whipped and sweetened according to directions (Not Cool Whip)
This dish is beautiful when prepared in a clear glass pedestal bowl.
Prepare the custard and set it aside to cool. Slice the cake into ½ inch slices. Spread the jam on pieces and sandwich them. Line the bowl with the slices, covering the bottom and coming up the sides. Pour the brandy or an equal amount of fruit juice over the slices. Layer the peaches over the cake. At this point, I sometimes add bananas, berries or other fruit.
Once the custard has cooled but not set, pour it over the fruit. Refrigerate until the custard is set. Prepare the whipping cream. After custard is set, spread whipping cream over the custard layer. I like to garnish the top of the cream with shaved chocolate or toasted almond slivers.
Ingrid Lochamire lives on a farm in northern Indiana where she raised and homeschooled four boys. She is a partner in her husband’s business and a former newspaper reporter. Now an empty-nester, Ingrid works part-time for a domestic violence agency and enjoys volunteering at her church, knitting, reading and posting regularly on her blog, Reflections on the Journey @ ingridlochamire.com.